Chapter 53:

052 – Coming Back to School Just to Leave Anew

Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path

June 17.

How long has it been since I sat in front of my bedroom's window? Let's see… Oh, twenty minutes.

I woke up at 6:11am and I've been sitting here still with my salivary breath which, yes I know that's gross since I haven't even left my room to gargle. I immediately waited with my hand on my chin while sitting on my chair, for Ojou-san to wake up but she still hasn't.

I've been in a relationship with Rin for nearly two years and it will be weird if I still don't know her sleeping habits… Actually, me knowing is still weird anyway. At these situations, she has the tendency to either not wake up even if you want her to, or she will wake up on her own. Not even a hug, flattery, strawberries, Gin, or the smell of A5 Japanese wagyu searing can wake her up. In the end, her sleeping habits are still a hit and miss.

"Ringo…! Hey, wake up now!

Oh, good morning, Gin."

And the time has come for Aunt Sumi to crash in to her room and raise her voice but it made no response. I waved and smiled at her as she saw me watching from the window.

"Really… that kind of thing only happens to Sis when she's sleep-deprived, and her imouto just up and does this so often."

"And you know what, Gin? This girl rarely got late in school."

"I guess calling her Nezuko will do nothing, huh."

"Ugh… So noisy…" surprisingly, Rin mumbled in her sleep.

"That's a good sign… Gin!"

I immediately took the slapstick and stepped on the other room's sill as I poked in my upper body inside her room. It was hard to navigate since her bed is right beside the window.

I whispered to Aunt if I will be disturbing anyone if I make a loud noise, but she said no. Thus, I started slamming the wall with continuous sharp sound of whacks.

"No…! C's are invading my room…!" she screamed whilst vigorously getting up.

"No, Ringo. But C's are still more disgusting than salivary breath."

"Auntie, how did you know that?"

"Ah. Eh. Uhh. Oh… Good morning… Mom and Potato…?"

I will just say this once—contrary to being called Potato every single time, she still calls me by my name.

"Good morning, Ojou-san. It's time for school."

"Fuehhh…? I thought it's just Sunday…"

"Wow. You really like having dreams of being a day before the current one. Last time I saw, you had a big grin on your face."

"I didn't know that happened to Rin, Aunt. Please tell me more."

"Alright~ Join us for breakfast then."

"Really? No casualties to my fridge, I guess."

"Ahhhh…! Alright, I'll get up!" Rin pouted.

"Hahahaha. Sorry for just suddenly entering your room. I'll be back in my house to freshen up and then I'll be back."

Aunt replied an alright, but then stopped at the doorway, "Do you eat rice on mornings, Gin?" and asked that.

"I'm not a morning person so I only eat something heavy when I don't wake up early."

"I'll take note of that from now on."

"Aunt Sumi, please don't imply things like that."

~ ~ ~

"Man… so our children are now second year in senior high…! You two really grew fast!"

As always, Uncle Shuu is also lively today.

"I guess it will make for a celebration once you two graduate!" he added.

"Step on the brakes, Dad. We don't even know if we'll graduate."

"Well, Rin and I aren't an exception to the pessimism of graduating students. Surely Aunt and Uncle also experienced this."

"Fufu… Now I remember when Shuu was still courting me back in college. I told him that we should finish our studies first before he can date me."

"Ugh… the gap…" I looked away.

That was the first time I'm hearing the story of Rin's parents, and it sure hit hard on us. We still aren't even in college and I'm already in a relationship with Rin.

Jean, you can rely on Uncle Shuu instead of me.

Aunt Sumi continued, "He began courting me on our first year, but he cried so hard when he found out that he had to repeat his third year."

Jean, make sure that you won't repeat a year before relying on Uncle Shuu instead of me.

Rin's head slammed on the table, laughing as her shoulders twitched.

"So then… it turns out that Aunt Sumi ended up being the one waiting?"

"Pfft…!" Rin burst out.

"Hahh… It's an embarrassing story, but it really happened to us.

I however ranked twelfth in our graduating class!"

"And the number of graduates was twelve?" I had to ask.

"That's rude, musuko! We were 29 in our class that graduated!"

"By the way, Aunt. What was your maiden name? I'm just curious, though."

"My maiden name? It's Anokane."

"Oh? So you're related with Erika, then?"

"She's my niece."

"What the… Rin, I didn't know you were cousins."

"Ah. So I didn't tell you?"

"By the way, Rin. Did you also get Mato's message?"

"Yeah. He asked us about our club enlistment but I said I'll remain, of course."

"I wonder what he's up to even before the school year begins. I guess I'll go ask the others later if they also got the message."

"I'm pretty sure they did."

"Well, thanks for the breakfast. I'll go get ready for school. See you in a bit."

"Can we go by bike, Gin?"

"Sure thing."

~ ~ ~

Of course it was still the same uniform we had from last year, so there is nothing worth mentioning. The same goes for Blue Ink itself. As we reached the bike parking, it already strike my mind that nothing striking has changed in the school, compared to when we were still a fourth year in JHS up to last year. There were new buildings and facilities made, and even a gymnasium was established for a school this small in population.

I have to say though. Tenth has a good sense for aesthetic architecture.

But indeed, no new additions that are apparent can be seen. Thus, we made our way to the school grounds and sat under the century old tree, assuming that the others are still not here.

Although, the first people we saw are Tenth and Akira entering the school together. We exchanged greetings and they immediately went to the office.

Another pair has been found, and it was something that finally strikes me. So early in the morning, Nagi and Shiro are already eating popsicle while entering the gate. If I have to guess, Nagi suggested that and Shiro just went along with it as her sweet tooth got over her. They went straight to the bulletin board after waving at us.

"Oh, yeah. We didn't stop by the board, Rin."

"We kinda forgot, huh."

And the entrance of pairs did not end there. I was expecting that it will be Jean and Ai-san, but surprisingly, Rin and I saw Rena from the CA class. With her is a man that is probably older than her. Upon further observation, we noticed an intimacy between them. It was cheerful, yet we felt innocence.

"So Rena has a guy, huh. Nothing surprising for someone older than me."

Needless to say, she didn't greet nor notice us.

"Nii? I didn't see you enter the gate," suddenly, we heard Anna's voice.

Seeing that the stone bench under the tree wraps around the trunk and roots, we didn't see my little sister with Naru as they are on the opposite side.

I kind of forgot that they are also seniors now. I don't think I will quickly get used to them with that uniform.

"Have you gone to your department, Anna?"

"Not yet. We're waiting for Ai-chan.

Oh, speaking of."

Here goes another pair. Jean and Ai-san just entered the school. But by that time, Nagi and Shiro came back to us.

"Hey. Go check the orientation schedule," he said.

And so Rin and I did.

"So our orientation in CA is earlier than in VA, huh."

Yuuga popped up beside us and spoke, "I guess I'll have a vacant right off the bat. I'll draw some pages then."

"Hey there, Yuu."

"Don't call me that, Gin!"

"Have you seen G and Mori already?"

"They're already in the room. I'll be going ahead."


~ ~ ~

Jean and our schedule linked so we ended up on the CA room. It was the same environment from last year. They are all the same faces.

But then, our attention was directed to Rena. She was very different from when we saw her with his boyfriend earlier compared to now. She reverted to her usual quiet self in contrast to her cheerfulness that we just saw.

"Hmm. I'm amazed with how she can take care of her hair in that length," Rin murmured.

"Weren't your hair also long when you're a first year?"

"I completely forgot what I was doing to my hair that time. And mine wasn't as long as that."

"I see. I guess I'll ask Aunt Sumi to get a look in your photo album."


"Ah, right, Jean. You'll be 18 next year right?"

※ Jean was born in 2002.

"Yeah. Can you tell Hiroomi that I'll be applying as a regular by then?"

It was my intention to ask him about what he will do once he turned that age, but even I was surprised when he said that.

"Is that so? He'll be glad to have you. Make your resume in advance, then. And be ready for a practical. We might have a window for February since the start of the year is still quite busy."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"You haven't even graduated by that time, Jean and you're already thinking of that?" asked Rin.

"I'm planning on going to a culinary school in college, so why not?"

I then turned to Rin, "You haven't really talked about your college of choice, huh."

She replied, "I might take a shot in CCI (Cotona Culinary Institute) if I pass a scholarship."


"What, don't tell me you don't have anything in mind after graduating, Potato?"

"Y-Yeah… I'm still thinking about that, but I'm already working as a sous chef…"

"Hmm… Makes sense."

▪ ▪ ▪

It turned out that nothing significant went on in both of our department's orientation so we just waited on the classroom before the assembly, as the Art Room is closed for some reason. I asked Mato-sen, but he just gave us a vague response.

I asked the others about the enlistment and they did say that they will still be in the club. One thing that is clear is that something is unclear. There's some kind of mystery in Mato's actions.

Thinking back on a side note, some insane things happened back in my fourth year and first year in SHS. Heck, even I nearly died, frankly.

I'm saying that since this first day in school has become dull aside from the motivational speech that Tenth had in the assembly that actually moved the students. There is also a new implementation in the system, as the Amplification incident has been cleared out.

And it was relieving to see that Ryota is still attending school.

Distractions aside, the earpieces are now a thing of the past. It was however replaced with pins that you can either put on your collar, shirt pocket, or most appropriately, in the neckties of our winter uniform. What was explained is that the pins will act as our identification apart from physical cards, and that it will automatically scan our attendance in the school. But it can't be exploited as you still have to manually scan your ID if by any chance someone forgot to bring it.

I have to repeat, though. Tenth has a good aesthetic sense. He made such a silver pin look posh.

But there was something we were weirded out earlier. I was with Rin and Jean in the assembly, and I heard some whispers from somewhere talking about us. They said:

"W-Woah… That's Ringo Akanami, Jean Ando, and Gin Sakato all in one place…"

"You're right… So they are the 'Triumvirate of CA?'"

"The three best cooks in Blue Ink… I so want to taste their dishes."

It came from underclassmen. Even I didn't know of that rumor until now. At that point, three things came to mind:

Ranking system in Blue Ink is nonexistent. They ought to refrain from saying that.

My minimal exposure is at risk.

Lastly, do they actually know what the definition of triumvirate is?

▪ ▪ ▪

Ten minutes before dismissal.

"Attention to all the current members of the Art Club, there will be a meeting inside the administration office in five minutes' time.

Please come to the office immediately."

Surprisingly, it was Mato-sen's voice on the mic of the broadcasting room.

"So that's why he's not in homeroom?"

All of us from VA went in front of the office as we met with Jean. Upon entering the office, we were asked to go to the meeting room where Tenth and Akira are already sat. Presumably, Mato-sen is still making his way here.

"Is this the first time you called out a whole club for a meeting, Tenth?"

G suddenly asked, "Who's Tenth, Gin?"

"Don't mind it."

"Sorry for being late," Mato-sen immediately entered and took a seat.

"Well then. Do we all agree can that we can start the meeting now?" Tenth asked.

We nodded.

"Alright. I guess there's no point in too much elaboration. Even before the school year began, we already had a request directly to the office pertaining to a client work for TAC. Upon further consideration of both parties, we reached an agreement and I decided to accept the request.

To put it simply, if not big, it could be a colossal project where you are tasked to paint two murals that are 60 meters in length and 3 meters in its height."

We felt bad for snickering since Mori was the only one that did not get the joke.

"Anyway, since it's a tedious project, the duration of it will be for three weeks. But knowing the club's performance, I think you will be ahead of the deadline in a couple of days at max."

Nagi raised his hand, "Where's the location then, Tenth?"

"The northern Cotona is still quite cold and breezy."

Nagi fainted from great joy.

"Woah. Near the mountains?" I asked.

"On the mountains, Gin. Akira scouted a place for you to stay beforehand. It is an inn that is a little isolated from the middle of the town, but the mural location is a walking distance from there so it's quite convenient."

I followed up, "And the transportation?"

"We'll have you use a van. I guess that Sir Martin and Gin will be the ones driving. It will be around a two-hour drive from here to there."

They all flinched as I flinched before them. I saw them having a confused expression while watching me shift my head everywhere. Actually, I was just doing maths on my head.

"So if it's two hours sharp… let's see…

Ah! One minute and twenty-four seconds!"

Rin, Akira, and Tenth facepalmed at the same time.

I based a calculation to my speed, in which a walk will take ten minutes from my house to school, but it will be seven seconds if I ran at my speed so…

10 minutes=7 seconds

…and if it is exactly 2 hours…

120 minutes=84 seconds

Hence, that time is roughly what I need to take before coming to Giotto's for work. It is three weeks, and I can't afford to just take leave like that. It may be a cut on my bills, but it will also be a cut on my earnings if I don't work.

"Moving on, we have to talk about our budget for that duration. Your stay in that inn will however be free of charge, so that's excluded. What we need to focus on is the restocking of materials, food, and fuel. The clothes are of course all up to you; just be wise on how many you bring," Mato explained.

"So that's why you asked us Mato-sen?"

"That's right, Jean."

"Umm… I have a question, Sir Juushiro."

"What is it, Ginji?"

"It is literally just the beginning of a new school year, so how will our studies become a balancing factor to that?"

"That is a good question. We've arranged that all you study sessions will be self-study, and all of the references will be sent via cloud. It is unnecessary to say, but the internet speed on the mountains is five times faster than Gin's."

I released a deep nani.

"More importantly, I have to apologize about this being so abrupt. You are scheduled to leave for Wednesday, early in the morning."

"Ugh…!" G and I let out at the same time as we nodded in agreement and that our thoughts linked.

"Gin and I suggest including nausea pills on the budget…"

"Potato, so that's what you meant when you're not a morning person?"

"Yeah… I get motion sick if I ride a vehicle early in the morning that's why I eat only a little or nothing but coffee…"

"But you haven't gone into an early morning trip even since then, right?"

What Rin meant to say was about me after I came out of the Void. Indeed, there hasn't been any instance that I traveled early, so I can't say for sure.

"Hahh… I hope that I developed a little immunity to it."

"Right then. It all boils down to the decision of you, TAC. I will make a decision upon the majority decision. Either we accept or decline."

"It goes without saying, Tenth.

We're all in for it."

~ ~ ~

Unusually, the two of us are walking with G, which makes us a rare trio.

"I feel like I need to ask about this, Gin."


"I know that Sir Juushiro is a little eccentric, but were you really conversing with him normally earlier? No, even Nacchi was talking so casually!

I wonder why I wasn't even surprised when he knew of my history…"

"Don't be shocked, but we're actually friends in and out the school. My father had a link with him in the past, which turns out that I was also part of that link. Also, he's part of the front lines in the Horach encounter."

"So he's also an Exile…?" he whispered.

"I guess Potato will be a pain in the butt once we begin traveling…"

"Ringo, keep in mind that you're pretty much telling me that I'm also a pain in the butt."

"Sorry not sorry, Potato and G."


Chapter Message:

That ends 052!


Thank you for reading!


053: The road-sick squad's survival and the surprise of the inn.